Why the New England Patriots should let offensive guard Joe Thuney walk in free agency.
New England Patriots left guard Joe Thuney entered 2019 as a contract year and certainly produced as one of the team’s most consistent and reliable offensive lineman.
With injuries along the offensive line, Thuney’s value not only went up as far as his importance on the team in 2019, but may have also risen around the NFL, which is a reason the Patriots are going to have a tough time bringing him back.
According to former Patriots offensive lineman and current ESPN football analyst Damien Woody, the 27-year-old Thuney has set himself up for a big payday.
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"“I think he’s going to command big money,” Woody said, via ESPN. “What’s not to like about Joe Thuney.”"
The 2016 third-round pick by the New England Patriots came way of the team’s shocking trade of defensive end Chandler Jones to the Arizona Cardinals. The Patriots ultimately didn’t get much out of that deal except for Thuney, who has worked his way into one of the top guards in the NFL and free agency is certainly going to determine his market value.
Given his toughness, versatility and how dependable he has been over the last couple NFL seasons, he is a player Bill Belichick would love to have back, but what he demands on the open market will make him expendable to the team.
No franchise tag for Joe Thuney
With the team’s other needs, primary bringing back Tom Brady and getting some talent around him, handing out a big contract to a guard is not something Bill Belichick will do, especially if he feels Joe Thuney can be replaced at a cheaper value.
Going back over the years, the New England Patriots have never really extended themselves to pay an offensive lineman that wasn’t a left tackle. Logan Mankins is in that conversation, but Belichick eventually shipped him out of town.
And if you are thinking the team could use the franchise tag on Thuney, don’t count on that. Tagging Thuney will cost a projected $14.92 million in 2020. With the team’s other needs, can’t imagine them even entertaining the thought.
So, who replaces Joe Thuney?
Well, the Patriots do have two offensive lineman they drafted in 2019 who didn’t see playing time during the regular season.
One is 2019 third-round pick Yodny Cajuste and the other is 2019 fourth-round pick Hjalte Froholdt.
Forholdt could actually end up being an upgrade over Joe Thuney in the long run if he can stay healthy.
Another option is that Cajuste morphs into the team’s left tackle, which could move 2018 first-round pick Isaiah Wynn to the guard position.
Whatever the New England Patriots do, it appears they already prepared themselves for the eventual departure of Joe Thuney to the open market.